When to Hire a Fractional Exec vs Freelance Talent for Your Startup | Amplify
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When to Hire a Fractional Exec vs Freelance Talent for Your Startup | Amplify

March 28, 2024
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Founders and CEOs of Seed or Series A startups often grapple with pivotal decisions regarding staffing for long-term success. The dilemma? Whether to invest in fractional executives, freelance talent, or agencies—and determining the optimal timing for each. 

In this blog post, I'll share a pragmatic outsourcing decision framework and provide insights on what you can expect to pay and where to find great talent. Let's cut through the noise and get straight to the heart of effective staffing strategies for startup growth.

A practical approach to develop your staffing strategy

Step one: Assess your personal expertise and your team's expertise for the task or function

Take a step back and evaluate the skillsets of your current team. If, for example, you’re looking for a GTM resource, decide if you need help with GTM strategy and/or execution. To make the decision, you’ll need to honestly assess how much you (or your team) really knows about GTM strategy. Do you know the best strategies, tools, and tactics for this functional area?

Step two: Assess your capacity

How much time do you have to work with the fractional resource? Do you have 5-10 hrs a week to provide hands-on training, oversight, and direction? Or do you only have 1-2 hrs a week to provide final review and approval? 

Outsourcing Decision Framework Chart
Outsourcing Decision Framework

Step three: Hire accordingly to augment your team

The less expertise you have in-house, OR, the less time and capacity you have to manage the resource... the MORE you need a fractional executive.

When you hire a fractional CMO or fractional CRO, you get the benefit of someone who can be autonomous. The more senior they are, the less they need direction and oversight from you. You get the benefit of someone who can build a foundation for growth, execute with speed, and train you and your team to own the function in house long term.

Alternatively, if you have strong expertise in-house, and you have the time to provide direction and oversight, you likely just need some extra muscle to get the work done. This is when a more junior freelance resource or a niche agency can be a perfect fit. Sticking to the example of GTM, this is when it's great to hire an outsourced SDR agency or graphic designer, for example.

We just caution you not to hire junior folks or niche agencies if you don't know how to manage, guide, or direct them. It will cause more headaches and will not produce the results you desire. Yes, junior talent is cheaper than executive support, but it's a complete waste of money if you don't have a clear handle on your strategy or have the time to manage them effectively.

Ensuring success with freelance support

Working with junior freelancers is very different from working with full time employees due to the short-term nature of their assignments. While outsourcing tasks and getting quality work back is the ultimate goal, you need to be realistic about your expectations. Freelancers still require some level of training, oversight and hands-on management.

Indeed recommends that hiring managers focus on four priorities when bringing on new freelancers: building relationships, communicating effectively, providing benchmarks, and offering incentives. UpWork also recommends you make feedback a critical part of the process saying, “One of your best tools to maintain a positive relationship and ensure quality is to provide regular feedback. State what isn’t correct and then help the freelancer fix it. This applies to small and large fixes.” As you can imagine, these things take time to do well but any investment in freelancers will pay off in spades.

How much you can expect to pay

Fractional or Agency Support

  • Fractional CRO/CMO - $8k+/month
  • Marketing Agency - $5-10k/month
  • PR Agency - $5-10k/month
  • Outsourced SDR Agency - $5-10k/month
  • Web Design - $15k+ (for initial site build) + $1-2k/month for ongoing maintenance
  • Graphic Design - $2k+/month for ongoing design support

Where can you find fractional or freelance talent? 

Check out these vetted resources to find you next fractional or freelance rockstar:

  • Bolster - If you’re looking for executive talent, Bolster is a great option. The company combines the power of experienced recruiters with an intelligent sourcing platform to deliver a superior executive search experience. And, for a limited time, Bolster is offering  a free Executive Talent Audit ($1,500 value). In this 45-minute session, a senior member of the Bolster team will help you strategize about talent, leadership, and growth.
  • MarketerHire - a great resource for sourcing marketers. We love this solution because their pre-vetted talent and AI-powered matching technology means you can add an expert marketer to your team in less than a week.
  • TopTal - TopTal freelancers must pass a rigorous screening process to become part of its trusted global network of experts. We love TopTal's high-touch approach to matching you with the best candidates for your need.
  • UpWork  - a global job marketplace that allows you to screen and hire talent in any discipline. You can upload a job description and have freelancers respond or you can search by skill, such as SEO, CMS, etc and review portfolios. We love UpWork because the hourly pricing is transparent and you can screen by location, satisfaction rating and more. 

Want to discuss your GTM needs in more detail? Schedule a strategy call with our founder to learn more about our growth services.